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Football News & Notes: Dealing With Short Term Setbacks

So Neuheisel and his staff received some disappointing news from the recruiting front yesterday. Marlon Pollard, a CB from San Bernardino, CA (6-1, 160) who had committed to UCLA as Dorrell’s first recruit from the class of 2009 (last year) has decided to switch his allegiance to the Irish. From the DN blog:

`We opened the possibility of looking elsewhere, and we talked with the coaches at UCLA and obviously everyone knows there was a big coaching change," Rachael Pollard told "Right around that time, we thought we should at least explore other opportunities, not because of the coaching staff, Rick (Neuheisel) is a great guy and the people he's brought on have helped strengthen that coaching staff. We are not leaving UCLA because they don't have the potential to win there. They're a great program, with great facilities … .''

DN’s Jill Painter then posted another follow-up in which she brought up “the Walker factor”:

Asked if he was worried defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker might leave for a head coaching gig, Pollard said:

``That was definitely in my mind. He was the person I liked a lot at that school. Coach (Karl) Dorrell left. I just didn't want to choose a college over one person I'd be working with. I respect him to the fullest. I have to make the right decision overall for my whole college. I've been in California my whole life. I don't really like California, to tell you the truth. I've been wanting to get away from California. It's not that I don't like it, but it's time for a change. I've lived here my whole life. I want to travel.''

Well here are few thoughts I have on this story.

First, good luck to Marlon. I would urge all Bruin fans to harbor no ill feelings towards a college kid (and I would include Byron Moore in the category as well, who I think is a bigger loss in terms of talent) switching his mind during a roller coaster recruiting process. It happens.

As much of a set back this is, I have no doubt Neuehisel and Walker have contingency plans in mind in terms of other recruits to target who will fill up their spots. Moreover, if there was a position UCLA could afford to take hits on recruiting trail, it was the secondary, given all the commitments from last year’s class. norcald503 has more on the depth and quality of recruits at secondary we have brought in last two years.

I think it’s bit lazy on Painter’s part to just bring up Walker’s future at UCLA as a leading question in her interview. There is nothing unusual about an above average DC not lasting long at one program. It’s not a secret at this point that Walker might not stay for the long duration at UCLA, given his contacts with other schools in previous off season. I am sure other programs are using that as a negative recruiting tool. But at the same time, I think UCLA staff can use that as a positive by arguing that if other schools think that Walker will move on, then they probably think UCLA defense is in position to be very successful under the current coaching staff in the short term. And in that case the UCLA football program would be well situation to bring in another solid DC to replace Walker, as the job will be attractive to many assistants around the country who would want to team up with Neuheisel and Chow to continue the Bruin revival under the national spotlight. So I don’t really buy that as an effective recruiting tactic by other school.

Also, I know it is very trendy to hate Notre Dame football (just like it is to hate on Duke/UCLA hoops). However, I think there is something to the ND mystique when it comes to football. South Bend may be in the middle of nowhere, but it is a special place when it comes to football tradition, and I can totally see how ND mystique could influence an impressionable kid out of high school. Plus there is that fact about UCLA blowing two games against the Irish last two seasons. So this doesn’t surprise me all that much.

In any event, I just don’t think there is all that much to get worked up over the news concerning Marlon. I think despite the recent new on Byron and the latest one concerning Marlon, the recruiting will take care of itself under the long run.

In terms of the immediate future and the expectations for next season, the New York Times becomes the latest MSM outlet (following to channel BN’s dose of reality:

This is bound to be a up-and-down season for the Bruins, as the team will have to deal with both a tough schedule and continuing questions about the effectiveness of its offense. One could say that Olson’s health is the key to the season, but he was so ineffective last fall (48 percent completion percentage) that his return does not automatically guarantee the Bruins will be improved. The good news comes on defense, a unit that should again rank among the Pac-10’s best despite losing six starters. But the schedule is rough. The non-conference slate features at least two, perhaps three, top 25 teams. The Pac-10 slate ends poorly, sending the Bruins to Arizona State and U.S.C. in the final two weeks of the fall. However, getting three teams below them in the Pac-10 – Arizona, Stanford and Washington State – at home should give the Bruins a boost, and while the U.S.C. game is an almost certain loss, the rest of the conference slate is a toss up. So is expecting a repeat of last fall’s 6-6 mark out of the question? Definitely not. If Neuheisel’s presence can provide the lift on offense many are expecting, the Bruins should be just as good, if not better, than a year ago. I’m not going to go crazy about this U.C.L.A. team, but a 6-6 or 7-5 season to open the Neuheisel era is a good start.

Read rest of NYT’s UCLA preview here. They have Bruins ranked as the number 53 team in the country, which is about right given the talent level in our program.

That doesn't mean the Bruins are going to come out and raise the white flag to start the season. I think Underbruin is on the right track in terms of what we can hope from the football program in the coming season (emphasis added):

[O]ne must believe that to demand an enormous improvement in any coach's first season - especially one in which he loses so much talent on both sides of the ball - is rather unfair. When talking about the chance to transform that energy into game results, one must expect the buck to stop right at the foot of the Tennessee Volunteers. Expecting a win is, perhaps, too much at this juncture. However, the team must come out with a sense of visible purpose and desire to attack that has been lacking in previous years. Getting embarrassed on national television in the opening game of the Neuheisel regime - especially in the Rose Bowl - would put a huge screeeeching halt on all the momentum the program has been building over the last half-year or so.

I think that is about right. However, we should also be mindful of the memories of Howland's first year when his team was getting embarrassed by programs like St. Johns. I have no doubt the Bruins are going to come out fighting and will do what they can to build towards a promising future, but we will have to be mindful of the reality of our program in terms of the talent. Just like we will have to deal with some short term setbacks on the recruiting front, we will have to weather our share of storm during the regular season which will require us to show the same sense of patience the broader UCLA community exhibited during Howland's first two seasons (following the disastrous reign of you know who). We will start going through our depth chart later next week.

Elsewhere on the football front, if you are jonesing for more pigskin info. bookmark Ted Miller’s new Pac-10 blog on WWL. I am sure we will have passionate disagreements with Ted often in the coming weeks (as we have taken him to task before), but he gets prop for acknowledging the emergence of the new media landscape in the world of college football.